‘American Idol': Phil Kane Stuns Judges With His Earnest Songwriting [Watch]
American Idol will return with a new episode on Sunday (March 26), but the show previewed one audition from an 18-year-old college student named Phil Kane prior to the air date. The singer currently attends Belmont University in Nashville with a major in songwriting, and he brought his own original song called "Osage County" to the Idol judges.
In a pre-audition interview with Ryan Seacrest, the clearly country singer-songwriter said he loves writing about "girls and dirt roads," and in the audition, he combined his country style with soft rock sensibilities.
Kane didn't only showcase his voice in the audition; he also displayed his strong talent on piano as he dove into the meaningful tune. The song, which Kane wrote when he was 16, exudes sentimental nostalgia as he sings about growing up in a small town, and eventually, having to leave it.
"It's about dang time I leave this town, but it's harder than you may think / 'Cause when a friend of yours is a friend of mine in Osage County," he sings in the final lines before ending a sparkling piano outro.
Judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie were clearly entranced by Kane's performance, and they gave him a standing ovation. Bryan then bestowed Kane with a high compliment, calling him a "country Jackson Browne." As the judges gave their analysis of Kane, their enthusiasm came through even more.
"The storytelling of your song, I believed every single word," Perry said of the performance. "It was just so real, and I really related to it. I'm not even from your little town, but I want to go and visit now!"
"Authenticity will get you so far," she added. "It's not about notes. It's about telling a story."
Richie complimented Kane's songwriting, saying his song "checked all the boxes" and was "dead on the money."
"That was brilliant, what you just did," Richie said.
Bryan agreed with his fellow judges, telling Kane that he has "it."
Before they shared their votes, Perry gave another piece of advice to Kane, telling him to be himself in the competition and not worry about the other singers.
"Don't try and compete with everybody else; just try and highlight who you already are," she told Kane. "Don't try and be something you're not because that's how you'll not win."
The judges then gave Kane three "yes" votes to head to Hollywood, and he walked out with a golden ticket in hand.
American Idol airs on Sunday nights on ABC.